Ivory Coast vs. Japan: World Cup Group C Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction

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Ivory Coast vs. Japan: World Cup Group C Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Ivory Coast battled back from a goal down to beat Japan 2-1 in their World Cup Group C opener on Saturday.

Japan were slick in the opening half and took a deserved lead through Keisuke Honda.

However, Ivory Coast kept probing and their forwards eventually found their attacking instincts. Two goals in quick succession from Wilfried Bony and Gervinho secured the three points.

Japan took time to find a foothold in the game, but when they did it was clinical.

A quick throw-in move resulted in Honda being released into space in the box and he lashed a left-footed drive into the top corner.

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The goal rocked Ivory Coast on to their heels and Atsuto Uchida went close to doubling the lead, but he saw his shot beaten away by Boubacar Barry.

Ivory Coast found the pace of the Japanese play tough to cope with, but they did carry a threat of their own.

Yaya Toure and Arthur Boka went close with free-kicks, while the latter forced a fine save out of Eiji Kawashima with a drive from 25 yards.

Salomon Kalou was Ivory Coast’s top scorer in qualifying, but his attacking instincts deserted him shortly before the break. He found space in the box but, like Wilfried Bony a few minutes previous, his radar was awry as his header flew high and wide.

Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi elected to start Bony ahead of Didier Drogba. On 48 minutes, it once again looked like a mistake as the Swansea man fluffed his lines.

A cross into the box looped invitingly to Bony, but he mistimed his header and the ball flew off his shoulder and over the bar.

There was a virtual carbon copy 10 minutes later as the forward beat his marker to the ball but failed to turn the effort on target.

Lamouchi turned to Drogba on the hour mark and he added some zip to Ivory Coast's play. A driving run had Japan chasing back at pace; a deft flick played in Gervinho but his effort was ultimately charged down.

Having continually passed up chances while Drogba was on the bench, Bony made no mistake with the striker alongside him.

Shuji Kajiyama/Associated Press

A stunning cross from Serge Aurier on 64 minutes picked out Bony and he planted his header into the far corner.

Momentum was firmly with Ivory Coast, and two minutes later Aurier picked out Gervinho at the near post and his header squirmed through the hands of Kawashima.

Kawashima was culpable for the second goal, but he kept his team in the match with a diving save to keep out a free-kick from Drogba.

However, Japan could not muster a telling response of their own as Ivory Coast held on for victory.

Ivory Coast's win took them level at the top of the table with Colombia, and those two sides will meet on June 19.

Drogba may not be 100 percent fit, but he will surely play some part in a game that could take them through given the impact he had in the 30 minutes he played against Japan.

 

Grades

Note: Ratings based on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the worst and 10 the best.

Ivory Coast Player Ratings
Player 1st-half rating 2nd-half rating
Barry 5 6
Aurier 6 8
Bamba 6 6
Zokora 5 6
Boka 6 6
Y. Toure 7 7
Tiote 7 7
Serey Die 6 6
Gervinho 5 6
Bony 4 6
Kalou 5 5
Substitutes
Drogba 8
Djakpa 6
Ya 6

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Japan Player Ratings
Player 1st-half rating 2nd-half rating
Kawashima 7 5
Ushida 7 7
Morishige 6 6
Yoshida 6 6
Nagatomo 6 7
Yamaguchi 7 6
Hasebe 7 5
Okazaki 6 6
Honda 8 5
Kagawa 6 5
Osako 6 6
Substitutes
Endo 6
Okubo 6
Kakitani 6

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Post-match reaction

Ivory Coast head coach Sabri Lamouchi praised Drogba's impact on the match, as John Drayton of the Mail On Sunday reported.

When Didier Drogba came on the pitch everything changed. 

When you have this calibre of player on the pitch you are very lucky.

Of course, he was frustrated to be on the bench but if you saw the joy when he finished the match... he is a champion.

In the same Mail On Sunday article, Japan head coach Alberto Zaccheroni backed his team to bounce back from the defeat.

I expected a different performance and I want to analyse what I did and I will speak to players.

The day after that I will know if it is an issue of maturity or something else. I know they can do better because they have done better many times before.

We have two matches coming up and we have to keep the morale high. What we have done does not count that much. What counts is what we need to do.

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